"We serve."

That is the motto of Lions Clubs International, and locally, the Marshfield Lions Club has been serving longer than any other civic organization.

The Mail caught up with the Marshfield Lions Club at their regular weekly meeting Thursday at their club building at 210 Maple Street, where just shy of a dozen members had gathered for business and fellowship.

The local Lions conduct their meetings in an unusually efficient manner, and if you didn't know better, you’d never realize how many people they are helping in their jocular, story-filled half-hour of business.

For instance, they help out each year at the Webster County Fair, and each year they donate $1,000 toward their $10,000 commitment to pay for bleachers in the grandstand there.

For decades, they have sent students to Boys State. They have purchased bicycles for children at Christmas. And they frequently give food to the hungry.

This is to say nothing of the major cause of Lions Clubs International: vision.

In the last school year, the Marshfield Lions Club donated 72 pairs of glasses to students in the Marshfield, Fordland and Niangua school districts. The club has paid for Braille lessons in the past.

Next month, on Sept. 14, the Marshfield Lions will join forces with the Christian County Lions to host a fish fry, the proceeds of which will fund a purchase of a $7,500 set of electric glasses for a blind woman in the area. The Marshfield group hopes to purchase a similar set for a person here, and any additional funds left over from the fish fry will be put toward the cost.

Lions Club eyeglass collection boxes can be found at several stores throughout the city.

In addition to these charitable causes, one of the neatest ways the Lions give is through their “Random Acts of Kindness” effort. For the past four years, the club has had a 50/50 drawing at each of its meetings. What the club collects goes into its kindness fund, and when $100 is available in the account, members take turns giving the money — and an invitation to join — to people who can use a little boost.

Joyce Jones, president of the club, said that in the past, she has given a donation to the Fordland Clinic. Some members have helped people in grocery lines, and some have helped single parents. So far, nearly $2,000 has been distributed randomly — or, recipients might say, providentially.

John Brooks, a longtime member of the group, noted that early on, the Lions were the only show in town, as civic groups went, and since the club predated the Chamber of Commerce, they once functioned as one. Brooks said that all civic leaders and business people were members in those early days, and he just naturally joined as a young man to represent the Brooks family.

Brooks said that the Lions were instrumental in many of the infrastructure elements that Marshfield residents take for granted — things like streetlights, for instance, which the club pushed for early on.

One of the early projects in the 1930s was the establishment of what was called the Farm to Market Road — a way of moving products into and out of Marshfield for commercial purposes. Today, the Farm to Market Road is known as Highway 38.

Brooks has put in a lot of effort as a Lion, but he sees the enduring value of the group all around him.

"I work hard at being a Lions Club member," Brooks said. "It's not easy. You have to dedicate yourself to being here once a week, and to helping with meals, fundraisers, the fair and other functions. All of these functions are supported by the community in a big way."

Kevin Cantrell, former district governor, likes to quote Helen Keller, who originally challenged Lions to become Knights of the Blind: "Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much."

Cantrell met his wife through Lions volunteerism following the Joplin tornado, and she continues with her home club in Lebanon while Cantrell is a member in Marshfield.

Cantrell is also the president of the Webster County Fair Board, and the link between the fair and the Lions is further solidified through him. He noted that of the 34 presidents of the fair, 23 were Lions Club members.

Anyone who is interested in joining the Marshfield Lions Club is welcome to do so. The organization meets at 6:30 p.m. each Thursday (and members often gather early to enjoy Lion Ron Cole’s home cooking). Don’t be late; the Lions stand up to sing promptly at 6:30 p.m., if not before. And take a happy dollar, which you’ll donate as you report on what is making you happy that night. There’s a lot to smile about with the Marshfield Lions Club.

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